So we have recently flown to Malawi from London with our three children aged 7, 6 and 6 and have been asked a few times how we did it – so here are a few of our Long Haul Flight Essentials that made it easier and nicer to do!
*We were provided with a number of these items/services to review but all opinions as to whether they are long haul flight essentials are our own.
Meet & Greet Car Parking
For us Meet & Greet Car Parking with three kids, heavy bags and tired children especially at the end of a trip is one of our long haul flight essentials.
Yes it’s lovely to jump out of the car at the beginning of the trip when you’re excited and simply give the driver your keys but it is even nicer and perhaps even a long haul flight essentials to do so at the end of the trip when you’re exhausted and desperate to get home. We’d done a 22 hour journey back from the tea estate in Malawi to Heathrow and I think if I’d have had to get on a bus to find the car rather than ask a man for the keys I may have cried. We practically always use Skypark Secure to book our car parking and they can arrange great meet and greet at Heathrow GoodToGo Meet & Greet T2.
Airport Lounge Access at the start of your journey
For us this may now have replaced the need to take a picnic with us on a long haul flight. Whilst an airport lounge might not be an essential for a short haul flight it’s a great start to a trip for us particularly when I’m worried that the kids might not eat on the flight. If we book an airport lounge then the kids can fill themselves up on croissants and snacks and crisps and fruit before we get on the flight, meaning we don’t have to worry if they don’t like the offerings provided by the airline.
Overnight flight – with Decent Airline
We discussed our flights at length and decided upon an overnight flight with SAA even though it was longer and slightly out of the way. The thing about an overnight flight though is that you can get on, eat some dinner, watch a film and then potentially sleep for 7-8 hours out of the 11 – meaning that in fact the boredom levels for the kids might be actually less than a shorter flight. Decent leg room on our South African Airways flight from Heathrow to Johannesburg meant sleep for 4 out of the 5 of us! Definitely one of our long haul flight essentials!
Good Route – Nice Airports
This is a long haul flight essentials tip that is combined with the tip above. It’s worth considering where you will fly to and which airports your connections will be in. Having discussed the various routes to Malawi, from London to Blantyre, with seasoned Malawi travellers they all without fail recommended flying on SAA through Johannesburg rather than on any flight through Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, or Nairobi in Kenya. The other two routes were cheaper and actually shorter but both Nairobi and Addis Ababa are not airports that anyone wants to spend any time in, never mind with three kids. Accordingly we chose the Good Route and Nice airport of Heathrow – Johannesburg – Blantyre on SAA.
Airport Lounge to deal with long connections – long haul flight essentials!
Having chosen the Good Route/Nice Airport route (as per the tip above) we found ourselves with a 5 hour connection in Johannesburg on the way home – between 2.30 and 7.30pm! What were we to do? Thankfully SAA have an excellent child friendly and luxurious lounge which is the perfect place to while away 5 hours. We charged our phones, checked our emails, used the efficient and effective wifi (3 weeks in Malawi had taken its toll!) kids watched films on their iPads and filled up on sweets, crisps, drinks and yes more croissants. It was a relaxed environment to while away time and we didn’t have to worry about where they were or what they were up to. There was even showers if you wanted to freshen up.
I’ve written about our travel snugs before and we have now done our third long haul flight with them. You can see the full review of the Travel Snugs here but they keep the kids snuggly and warm and we had 7-8 hours sleep out of all of them on both flights so for me they are totally one of our long haul flight essentials!
Some people may not be fans of the electronic babysitter but our kids have one each and they are long haul flight essentials for us. Not specifically on the plane as the decent airline should mean that they have some decent entertainment systems but for all that time around the actual flight – for the waiting in the departure gates, for the car to and from the airport, for the delay before the flight sets off. For all those times that the kids might otherwise say – I’m bored and I have nothing to do. It’s a long haul flight essentials!
When all else fails it’s time to dig out the travel games. We have a round up of some of our recent favourites here, and anything that we can throw in the bag and kills an hour is for me one of our travel essentials.
We love our Pipity Activity Sets and they are a long haul travel essentials for us. We’ve had these nearly three years now too and we take them everywhere. I had to make an urgent order when I realised that we must have left one of them on our last trip as I don;t like travelling without them. They are so compact and useful and means that the kids have everything they need wrapped up in one bag! You can read our full review here.
Collection on arrival
When you’re flying long haul, don’t skimp on your arrival transport. Make sure you know how you’re going to get to your first hotel or place to stay. When you arrive off a long flight you’ll inevitably be grumpy and disorientated. I can’t recommend enough arranging for someone to collect you from the airport and get you safely to your first place of rest. Thankfully in Malawi we had the wonderful Ozzie from Responsible Safari Company to look after us and provide water and snacks and guidance.
Oh and just an additional one, it’s lovely to arrive somewhere and meet new friends – this is clearly a bonus but our first evening was made all the better with beer at Game Haven Lodge with the Travel Lynn Family! More on that in our Game Haven Review to follow.
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.